Johnson's Russia List
1 June 2002
Russian Writer Slams Putin
May 31, 2002
MOSCOW (AP) - Renowned Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who issued
rare words of praise for Vladimir Putin after he rose to the presidency,
slammed the current state of the country Friday and said Putin had failed
to live up to expectations.
Solzhenitsyn, an 83-year-old Nobel literature laureate, was persecuted for
chronicling the brutality of the Communist regime and spent two decades in
exile in Vermont. He surprised many Russians with his praise two years ago
for Putin, a former KGB agent who spied for the Soviet state.
Since his return to Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn has earned a reputation as
an eloquent, curmudgeonly nationalist. In a rare interview on state-run RTR
television shown Friday night, the writer slammed the ``grandiose
plundering of Russia in the 1990s.''
``Our best factories, our priceless natural resources were transferred -
practically free of charge - into the hands of a group of adventurers,'' he
Solzhenitsyn largely blamed ex-President Boris Yeltsin for allowing rigged
privatizations of state enterprises. But he blamed Putin for not turning
``When our new president came (to power) there were hopes that he would
crack down on those impostors, that he would make them pay in full for what
they had seized, but this has not happened,'' he said.
He said the privatization deals have left the government so broke that
military helicopters are crashing with increasing frequency for lack of
maintenance, and forest fires rage unchecked because fire-fighters don't
have the proper equipment.
Solzhenitsyn's chronicle of life in Stalinist-era labor camps made him a
strong voice in defense of human rights, and his ``Gulag Archipelago''
trilogy remains the most detailed published history of how Soviet dictator
Josef Stalin terrorized, murdered and imprisoned millions.